You can have a more effective, highly converting, profitable website. If you’re floundering, you can kill it, and if you’re killing it now, you and I both know there is always room for improvement.
Making money online through your website is mainly a combination of skills, knowledge, and using the right marketing tools in the right ways. I’m oversimplifying it a lot, but what I mean is that there are tons of strategies you can use to enhance your skills and knowledge, and tools you can seek out that will get you greater results when you use them correctly.
This is true whether you’re selling products or services, acting as an affiliate, collecting ad revenue, promoting your business, or anything else.
So, what are these brilliant marketing tools and features that make moneymaking websites realize actual ROI in a big way?
I have a few ideas, but my team and I asked some leading digital marketers, consultants, bloggers, and other smarties in the online space to spill their secrets to building moneymaking websites. And they dished!
I think the number one feature of a moneymaking website is a plan.
Too many people put up websites and have no clear plan on how to make them profitable—there’s no monetization or promotional strategy in place. Then, too often, these same people are absolutely perplexed as to why their sites don’t make money.
Anil Agarwal at BloggersPassion seems to agree with me. His suggestion:
"Have a monetization plan: Create a monetization strategy if you want to make your blog a success. Figure out various ways to make money. Don't depend on ads if you want recurring income. Focus on building your email list and grow your search engine traffic. That's where the money is."
Part of planning is also knowing your brand. And your audience! You need to connect with these folks, so you need to know who they are and what they want.
Anil wonders: “Without knowing your targeted customer, how can you create content or products?” Because it’s true! Before you go all-in spending tons of time or effort building up your site or marketing it, get clarity on your audience.
Without knowing your targeted customer, how can you create content or products? - Anil Agarwal
We talked to PJ Germain at Pure Residuals about building moneymaking sites, and his first suggestion is to “discover a common problem within your niche and clearly state this. Then, provide an easy to implement solution with step-by-step instructions.” Great advice that begs the question: what’s a niche and how do I find mine?
Yes, a feature of your moneymaking site needs to be a clear focus -- your niche. This lets you dig in deep and become a go-to in whatever it is you specialize in.
If you don’t know what to specialize in, my new friend Anil had a great idea for selecting a niche: “Have fun.” He says:
“What's the point of making a blog without any passion? So make sure you're spending quality time on your blog to grow your audience to research your competitors and build quality links. Have fun while doing all this. Make sure to love what you do. That's how you succeed.”
Even though he’s talking about blogging, I think this follows for any kind of site. For example, if you’re selling products, when you don’t care about them it shows. You’ll be going half-assed on your digital marketing efforts, site updates, and even customer service in no time if there’s no passion behind it!
And your niche needs to be clear! Johnny FD told us “the biggest reason why most blogs don't make any money is because people who find it have no idea what you're actually selling or where to start.”
The people who visit your site need to be told where to go and what to do, and their path needs to be easy and obvious. (And of course, that path should lead them to somewhere that makes you money!)
Lorraine Reguly at Wording Well took the words right out of my mouth on this topic! She lists a clean layout as an essential feature of a good moneymaking site. Why? Because you need to “make it easy for your visitors to find your products and/or services.” The site should be “user-friendly and mobile-friendly.”
User experience is just part of the picture, though.
Johnny FD had something to say about this. He gave us a tip to add a site feature that I’m now totally adding to my personal blog. He said:
“When someone lands on a blog post of mine, even if they love it or get a ton of value from it, if they don't know what to read next, I've lost that reader possibly forever. Every blog needs to have a start here page that tells the story about how you became successful at whatever your blog topic is about. Include links to products that helped you achieve those goals and make money from them. It's an easy win/win for both you and the reader.”
PJ Germain echoed similar sentiments, saying “give the readers an easy way to take action and make the purchase.”
In other words, you need a clear call to action so the path is one that leads to conversions.
We chatted with Karolina Patryk, and she had some insight on creating a clear path to conversions in the e-commerce space. They implemented a feature that made purchasing with them easier than ever. She told us:
“When we were running an online store few years ago, we managed to double the conversion rate only by adding a bar that followed customers throughout the offer. It made the buying process easier for them--they didn't have to go all the way up to the beginning of the offer to click 'Buy Now' button. They had it all the time on the bar.”
My team also talked with Tom Pick over at Webbiquity. He had a lot to say about conversions:
“The key to a money-making website is landing pages that convert.
And when it comes to designing landing pages that convert well, there are many elements to consider, but only one secret. Testing.
Most landing page and form builders support A/B split testing. Though you can only accurately test one element at a time, you can eventually test every element through repeat testing. Test headlines; create multiple versions using headline generator tools from Inbound Now, BlogAbout, SEOPressor for Wordpress, or the TweakYourBiz Title Generator. Test copy (long vs. short, clever vs. direct). Test images, Test buttons (size, color, text). Test different layouts (e.g., form on the right vs form at the bottom). There's no magic formula, as what works best will vary by offer, audience, and other factors. Continual testing is the only way to ultimately optimize conversion rates.”
The key to a money-making website is landing pages that convert. - Tom Pick
And I’ll let Sue Ann Dunlevie from Successful Blogging sum it up for you. She told us: “In order to make money with your website, you need a high-converting website.”
But… there are different kinds of conversions. Since we’re talking about making money, the conversion you may be inclined to be focused on is the sale. However, the most valuable conversion is often the smallest.
As Sue Ann puts it: “The first conversion you need is from blog visitor to email subscriber.”
Almost everyone we talked to emphasized how important it is to build your email list.
No, I’m not just saying that because I’m writing a post for MailMunch. I’m saying that because it’s true. Email list sign up forms are a must-have marketing tool for your site.
Angie Nelson at The Work at Home Wife wanted to emphasize “just how important capturing email addresses from Day One is when it comes to creating revenue.”
That is because, as my pal PJ says, you should “grab those email addresses out of the gate so that you can give your readers more information and pitch them again and again.”
But back to Angie! She went on to provide these gems:
“Many new website owners and bloggers are on a budget and looking to cut costs. The things most often cut from the budget are lead capture and newsletter services with the reasoning they will invest in those as soon as profits allow.
That is such a huge mistake! Everyone knows it's so much easier to sell to warm prospects than cold leads. Your subscribers are already warm. They already love your stuff enough to give you their email address. They are waiting to hear what you have to say next. What comes next may just be your sales pitch.
Most site owners will tell you the majority of their income comes from their email list. Not only does this list consist of people ready to buy, you can also do a lot more segmentation and testing than what you're capable of on your website alone.
Don't wait until three months, six months, or 12 months down the road. Get started today! Every website visit is a potential lead lost.”
Karolina also chimed in on how vital that list is. She told us “studies have shown that the highest conversion rate can be achieved through the mailing list. It's very important to start building your list, no matter how big you are right now.”
These three do make a strong case for how important it is to build that email list!
So, in order to drive signups, you may not want to just stick a static signup form onto your site and see what happens. I love what the Digital Marketing Pro Alex Chris suggests – it’s something my colleague blogged about here a few months back: The Popup!
"Despite what many people believe, pop-ups and in particular 'exit popups' are among the best ways to increase conversions. What I found to be very effective is to have an exit popup show up when users are trying to leave the page, after reading one of my blog posts.
In the popup I give incentives to people to sign up for my newsletter and then I send them a series of emails (three in total).
It's a process that is not distracting to the user, and it works very well."
Despite what many people believe, pop-ups and in particular 'exit popups' are among the best ways to increase conversions. - Alex Chris
Thanks, Alex. That reminds me…
Moneymaking websites follow up with their subscribers and other leads!
You don’t have to use a big fancy marketing automation platform. Simple, inexpensive marketing tools to with MailChimp can do the trick. And if your site is still small or you’re new to the email marketing thing, you can personally email them back one at a time and thank them for subscribing—I’ve done that!
Phil Frost, the founder of Main Street ROI, is as keen as I am on following up with folks. When we talked with him, he said:
"In my experience many websites overlook the need for follow-up. The vast majority of website visitors are not ready to buy so they will leave your website and likely never return. Therefore, it's critical to have free offers like coupons or reports on your website in order to collect prospect's contact information. Then you can use email marketing to follow up, educate, and nurture your prospects until they are ready to buy. If you're not currently capturing your visitors' contact info, then I guarantee you're missing out on sales."
If you're not currently capturing your visitors' contact info, then I guarantee you're missing out on sales. - Phil Frost
In case you just missed it, simply following up and thanking your new subscriber isn’t enough. You need to nurture them as a lead so that they will convert further and get closer to giving you money!
Sending out emails isn’t a flashy marketing tool, but smart email sends to nurture leads is definitely a major feature of moneymaking websites. As I just mentioned, that one “thanks for subscribing” email isn’t going to cut it.
Newsletters, as mentioned previously by Angie, are one way to do it. An email series is another—think of the action-triggered series Alex mentioned earlier.
Not enough people do this, though. Blogger and designer Holly McCaig told us she’s “found that most people overlook the need to nurture their audience. If they aren't blogging or emailing them with topics that can relate to their passive income product it will be harder to sell to them.” And I concur. This also is a nice segue to the next thing a profitable site needs.
I’m going to back up a bit here. I got all kinds of excited about conversions, and somehow I skipped over one of the biggest, most important features a moneymaking website needs to have: Content! (As someone who runs an agency that specializes in content, that’s almost unforgivable...but let’s forget my little indiscretion and talk content with our pros, shall we?)
You all remember Anil, right? He says to “make sure to write in-depth articles to boost your search traffic.”
PJ reminds us to “give the search engines some meat to grab onto with high quality content that blows away your competition.”
Lorraine says “good money-making websites should contain blog posts that offer both value to the readers as well as purchase links, whether they are to your own products or others' products (affiliate links).”
Accompany your content with relevant images to make your words more engaging. Use these design tools if you'd like to make your own visuals.
And to add another luminary to our cast, Rob Cubbon provided some very clear advice around site content, as well as where you go from there. He told us:
“All you have to do is create awesome free content, get email addresses from website visitors by offering them even better free content, warm up those email subscribers with regular emails providing yet more awesome content, and then periodically offer them discounts of your amazing products for a limited time.
That's. All. You. Have. To. Do.”
Content offers, or as Rob said, “even better free content,” are indeed features of a good moneymaking site. Quality content offers are an amazing marketing tool!
You may also know contact offers as lead magnets. As the name implies, these draw in leads. The leads want the high value, quality free offer, but there’s a tiny catch. In order for the lead to get the offer, he or she needs to submit their email address and maybe some other information to get it.
For some folks, giving up their details just isn’t worth it. Or, I should say, it’s not worth it for that particular offer.
Quick food for thought: The better the offer is, the more details a lead will give you. At the same time, the less details you ask for, the more likely the lead is to give them up.
But back to the lead magnet itself. Sue Ann says you need:
“An irresistible Lead Magnet - a freebie your visitor gets in exchange for their email address. It should be short, easy to consume and give them a quick win. Spend a lot of time coming up with a great title for your Lead Magnet - that is the only thing people see before making their decision to fork over their email address!
After the Lead Magnet is delivered to them, have an email autoresponder series that nurtures the subscriber into getting to know you and exposing them to one of your offers.
If you do these two things, you'll be 90% ahead of most bloggers/website owners out there.”
I love that Sue Ann remembered follow up in there. Hopefully you will too!
And Holly also had some advice on lead magnets… and on how you bring it all together to see even greater ROI. Her advice?
“If you can, provide your readers with a great lead magnet that wins them over and builds trust as an authority in the topic. And then add them to a sales funnel that educates them, gives them insight and helpful resources; then introduce your passive income product to them--it will build trust and increase conversions. I've seen a difference when doing this.
Also, making sure that you segment your pitches to the right portion of your audience. If you talk about business tips and techniques as well as social media advice, you should be using a tagging system so that certain lead magnets allow you to segment their interests.”
If you can, provide your readers with a great lead magnet that wins them over and builds trust as an authority in the topic. - Holly McCaig
Of course, content offers aren’t the only offers that sites making big bucks put out. Offers on your products or services also can turn your site into a money maker. And these should be short term things because scarcity, even if only perceived, makes people take action.
Earlier Rob mentioned limited time offers for products. Why? Because these are known to be amazing tools for driving sales conversions.
Karolina gave us her best advice around making money with you site, and yep, guess what it was about? She said:
“If you are struggling to monetize your website, create a clear and inviting offer. We believe there are three main factors that every good offer should include: call to action buttons (more than one), testimonials, and exclusivity (product should be unique and limited).”
If you are struggling to monetize your website, create a clear and inviting offer. -Karolina Patryk
If I may, I would also suggest running limited time offers on any entry-level products or services you sell. Think of these as the gateway drug to doing business with you. Someone gets a quick hit for a low price, feels the high of the amazing value you provided them with, and then they are hungry for more.
Actually… ads didn’t really come up much. At least not in a positive way.
Anil mentioned not relying on them for recurring income.
Lorraine warns: “Do not saturate your site with ads. You will earn more from the direct selling of the products and services you promote!”
And unless I missed something, no one else that we talked to said a peep about them. This is probably because straight up ads on your site probably aren’t the big moneymakers many folks think they are.
Seriously, though, when is the last time you clicked a banner ad? Or an ad in the right rail of your (other) favorite marketing blog?
I’ve been at a few conferences where presenters talked about studies that found that we don’t even look at parts of the websites where ads tend to live. Our brains are already trained to not got there. (If you’ve seen these studies and have a source, please leave it in the comments—I’m still looking!)
I did find this, though: According to Invesp, people only actually view half of the banner ads that are served up to them. And there are a ton of articles--like this one from Fox Business and this one from Forbes—that point out that people are paying less and less attention to ads. Especially millennials.
Personally, I’ve only clicked on one ad—aside from ads in search results—in the past several months. And if sites have ads that impede my enjoyment of the content, slow down my shopping, or are otherwise obnoxious, I avoid that site.
Straight up, I don’t like ads. I mean, do you?
So, no. I don’t think that displaying ad units on your website is a feature of a big money making website. If anything, it feels more like a side hustle.
Go make some money on your site! Duh!
And get on the email list for one of my favorite marketing tools, MailMunch. If you aren’t on the list, sign up now!
Julie Ewald thought she was going to be a poet and professor. Instead Julie is a driven digital marketer who specializes in content strategy and creation for personal brands, consultancies, and unique tech companies. She is also the digital nomad at the helm of Impressa Solutions, the all-remote marketing agency she founded in 2012.